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North Florida Field Office

News Release

For Immediate Release

Date: March 30, 2001

Release #: 005-01

Media Contact:
Chuck Underwood 904/731-3332
Tom Mackenzie 404/679-7291

Statement by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Florida State Supervisor at the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissionís March 30 meeting

The following statement, by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceís Florida State Supervisor Stephen Forsythe, in support of the proposed Brevard County Manatee Rule was made today at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissionís meeting in Tallahassee, FL.

Good morning. My name is Steve Forsythe. I am the State Supervisor for the State of Florida for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I supervise the two Field Offices (Jacksonville FO and Vero Beach FO) that have the lead for certain activities within the Service for the recovery of the Florida manatee. The Jacksonville Field Office has the lead within the Service for the overall recovery of the Florida manatee.

The Service greatly appreciates the opportunity to appear before you today to offer our comments on the proposed Brevard County manatee speed zones.

The Service has reviewed the proposed Brevard County manatee speed zone revisions that were provided at the March 8, 2001, workshop. We believe these zones will provide an adequate framework of protected areas within Brevard County to address the current watercraft injury and mortality problem for manatees in this area. The Service will work with the Commission on the implementation of these protection areas.

As you know, on January 5, 2001, the court approved a settlement agreement between the Federal defendants, the Plaintiffs, and the Interveners. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, the Service agreed to submit a proposed rule for new manatee refuges and sanctuaries to the Federal Register by April 2, 2001. However, as a result of our discussions, the parties agreed that the deadline for submission of the Service's proposed rule for the designation of refuges and sanctuaries throughout peninsular Florida should be extended to May 2, 2001.

This extension will allow for coordination between the Service and the State of Florida if the State proceeds with a similar rule making process for the protection of manatees. The parties jointly agreed that the manatee and the people of Florida are better served, and a great deal of potential confusion can be avoided, if we coordinate our efforts when identifying areas where additional protection may be afforded to the manatee.

As you know, a proposed settlement agreement has been published in the litigation now pending between Save the Manatee Club, et. al., v. the State of Florida. As a result, the Service has had an opportunity to compare the additional manatee protection in your proposed settlement with the sites we are considering for additional Federal manatee refuges and sanctuaries. While we have not finalized our proposal, we do know that there is the possibility of duplication of effort regarding the proposals by the Federal and State governments regarding the manatee protection sites being considered. We support the State's efforts and believe the State of Florida should be the primary regulatory authority in State waters and have the responsibility to identify protective areas for manatees and establish manatee speed zones in Florida. The Service would then be able to shift most of its focus from establishing new Federal sites toward working with the Commission in implementation of these protection areas identified in your settlement. We think this complementary approach would best serve both the citizens of Florida and manatee conservation, and we therefore urge you to strongly consider accepting the draft settlement.

The Service will work with the State to ensure our proposal would compliment the State's proposal for the designation of manatee protection areas. We believe we can work together to ensure we produce a more comprehensive plan for the overall protection of the manatee. We also appreciate the progress and leadership demonstrated by the State to move forward on manatee protection.

Thank for this opportunity to speak.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 531 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

- FWS -

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Last modified January 14, 2004